A Land Without Snow
by Elena Kane
In a world of snow and ice, Cara is alone.
Different from the people in her life, Cara longs to find somewhere she can belong. Knowing that her ancestors came from a warmer place, Cara embarks on journey that leads her across the frozen world of Arc in search of the land without snow.
Along the way, she finds love, and a new respect for herself; something she’d never had before. With danger lurking in every direction, Cara must make a decision: stay with the man of her dreams, or to find the place that she can truly belong.
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Jack looked out the window into the frosty night that lay beyond the comforts of his home. He gazed at the oddly colored moon, an unpleasant feeling blooming in his chest. The fact that his first child would be born under a moon as deep blue in color as the one hanging in this night sky, did not sit well with him. It was a bad omen.
He turned to look at the closed bedroom door as he heard his wife shout out for the final time, followed closely by the cry of an infant, bellowing indignantly at being expulsed from the comfortable surroundings within its mother’s womb.
He approached the door cautiously, awaiting some sign that it was okay for him to enter, but received none. He reached tentatively for the doorknob, which held the door securely closed from the outside world. When it turned, he snatched his hand back like a child caught in the act of doing something naughty.
The midwife, Marge, stopped in her tracks with a yelp of surprise upon finding Jack so close to the room in which she had just spent many hours. Jack blushed and ducked his head down; he hadn’t meant to startle the poor woman. He craned his head to see past her stout figure into the room beyond, trying to gauge the condition of his wife and first born, but besides the unusual fire flickering in the hearth, the room was dark and quiet.
“Is Ruth alright?” he asked quietly, afraid to startle the baby into crying once more.
“Ay, she’s fine and so is the baby. A bit chilled, but healthy,” Marge said promptly, heading to the kitchen to retrieve more water for cleaning up.
“My wife is chilled?” Jack felt confused. His wife, like every other Arcian, was never chilled. It was the fire in their blood that kept them warm and toasty on even the coldest night.
“No, the baby is. That’s why we lit the fire in the hearth. Imagine having a fire going when it’s only a mere forty degrees below zero!” Marge shook her head, clearly finding the situation amusing.
“What’s wrong with the baby?” Jack furrowed his brow, his discomfort growing with each revelation this woman made.
“Not a thing as far as I can tell. Seems perfectly healthy, just cold. Even her skin was cold to the touch, which is a bit unusual, but I’m sure she’ll grow out of it.” The stout little woman was heating water in a kettle with the magical fire she had conjured and held in the palm of her hand.
“It’s a girl, then?” Jack asked, a smile stealing over his otherwise serious face.
“Yes. Just a tiny thing, although you wouldn’t be able to tell from all the howling.”
“Can I see them now?”
“Yes, I’ll be in in a moment to finish cleaning up before I head on my way.”
“More babies to deliver?” Jack asked as he crossed the sitting room to the bedroom beyond.
“No, not a one. This is the only baby I have to attend to tonight, but it’s been a long day and I’m tired.” She swept a hand across her eyes before making her way toward the bedroom as well.
Jack walked quietly across the room, searching for his wife’s face in the dim room, lit only by the dancing fire in the grate. He found her sitting up, looking at the precious face of their baby on the side of the bed closest to the door. She smiled wearily at him before returning her gaze to the tiny bundle in her arms.
Jack felt a softness enter his heart as he looked at his beautiful wife and the tiny creature they had made together. It was an incredible feeling. He had been worried, before his daughter arrived, that he would not have room in his heart to love anyone as much as he loved Ruth. Now that the tiny person was here, he found that he loved her every bit as much without even having laid eyes on her.
He tiptoed across the room, all thoughts of the blue moon fading completely as he sat on the edge of the bed next to his wife. He leaned over and kissed her gently on her sweat-beaded brow before whispering words of love for only her ears.
The midwife proceeded to clean up the surroundings carefully, returning all of her tools needed for childbirth, back into her satchel. Within minutes, the room looked as it had before her arrival and, biding them goodnight, she departed.
“We have a daughter,” Jack whispered excitedly to his wife.
“I know.” Ruth smiled up at him, melting his heart even more. She tilted her arms just enough so that he could see his little girl’s face clearly for the first time. Her face was smushed, swollen, and pink all over. Her tiny hands were clenched in little fists just below her chin. Jack couldn’t see any hair on her head and her eyes were shut tight, but she was perfect in every way. He smiled, touching the delicate, soft skin of her cheeks with a finger as he ran it down the length of her face. He counted her fingers, touching each one as he did. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.
“What shall we name her?”
“Cara, after my mother and yours,” Jack said without hesitation.
Ruth’s eyebrows shot up with surprise and confusion.
“The ‘C’ will come from my mother’s name, Caila and ‘ara’ from your mother’s name, Sara.”
Ruth smiled then and looked down at her little daughter. “Hello Cara, welcome to your new home,” she cooed quietly to her. Cara, upon hearing her name, began to squirm.
Jack smiled as he watched her begin to open her eyes. She blinked a couple of times before opening them wide in the dim light. He heard Ruth gasp before he registered what was wrong. Unlike every other child born in the land of Arc, his daughter’s eyes were not the warm brown color that one expected to see. Instead, he found himself staring into eyes the color of ice.
Cara shivered for what felt like the millionth time that afternoon. For the last eighteen years, her whole life had been made up of one shiver after another. Even in the strengthened greenhouse light, she still felt cold. Pulling her jacket tighter around her, she continued watering the plants using the magical ability that only she had.
Pole, like so many other villages in the snow-covered plains of Arc, needed the greenhouses to feed both the people and livestock. No plants of any kind ever grew in the tundra that made up the land of Arc. If the people wanted to survive, they needed those givers of life to provide for them. Cara was fortunate to have a job in one of the greenhouses and enjoyed working there; it was one of the few places her magic actually felt useful.
Most Arcians did not like to stay in the greenhouses longer than it took to shop for the plants, vegetables, and fruits that they needed for everyday living. Sure, you had the crazy Arcian every now again that enjoyed the rich, earthy smells and the pleasant warmth of a slightly strengthened sun. Those few, most of the time, became the gardeners so desperately needed to keep the greenhouses going, but the majority could only be convinced to work for the prestige and the large income they earned.
Mary, her boss, was one of those crazy plant-loving, sun-soaking nuts that genuinely loved working in the greenhouses. Like everyone else, she had started at the bottom as a fertilizer mixer, but now in her old age, she was head of all the greenhouses in Pole.
Pole was one of the larger villages in Arc, housing fifty greenhouses within its village limits. The fact that Mary was head over all of them spoke highly of her, or simply showed everyone just how crazy she was.
Mary saw Cara for what she was, someone a lot like her. Even when Cara was in her worst moods and complained about everything, Mary would smile and carry on with whatever task she was working on at the time. It was this behavior that caused Cara to respect and love Mary more than her own mother, who never understood Cara and her hatred of the cold.
Cara sighed heavily, looking up to the sky. She wished once more that the sun was closer to their cold little world. How different it would be to finally get warm.
She turned back to the plants and finished watering the row of carrots she had been working on. The greenhouses were the only place in which it was convenient to have a magical water ability. Everywhere else in a world of ice, it was pointless.
“Planning to leave early?” Mary asked from somewhere behind her.
Cara turned to scowl at the woman before returning to what she was doing. “If I could have my way, I would move into the greenhouse,” Cara muttered bitterly.
“I know you would.” Mary approached her from behind, put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it in gently. “So, what has you in a mood this time?”
Cara sighed heavily. For once, she wished Mary didn’t know her so well.
“Just our stupid homework assignment.”
Mary’s eyebrows rose expectantly, causing another sigh to escape Cara’s lips.
“The teacher assigned everyone else the project of making a fire container. Which, would have been fine, except she made a point of asking me if ‘I thought I would be able’ to write a report on the concept. She had everyone laughing and making stupid faces at me,” Cara mumbled angrily.
“Well, at least she was willing to work with you,” Mary said quietly. She knew all about Cara’s frustration with people thinking that she was stupid.
“I just wish she had pulled me aside after class instead of doing it where everyone could hear. It was all I heard about in the hall after that.”
Yet another reason to hate living in a world of snow. Not only did she look different and was magically different, but everyone treated her differently—even the teachers. They all seemed to think she was a half-wit who, along with not being able to produce fire, couldn’t learn.
After being treated this way through all of her primary grades, she had decided that it wasn’t worth trying when it didn’t change their opinions. She simply did as they asked, dealt with the snide comments of the other students, and passed through her entire schooling without incident or any real challenge—at least in the academic world.
She found that she learned more teaching herself anyway. At home, Cara spent most of her time with her nose buried in one book or another. Books allowed her to escape the reality and cold she so despised, and provided her with excitement, adventure, and the knowledge that she craved. She could sit in front of a cozy, warm fire for hours at a time, devouring one book after another. If she could have had her way, she would never leave the fire to venture out to the frozen world beyond.
“Would you like me to explain the magic behind keeping a fire burning in an object?” Mary asked, bringing Cara back to the present.
“No, I’ve read the theory in several books. The key is to make the jar thick enough and the fire hot enough to keep burning for as long as it’s in the jar.”
“And remember to always leave...”
“To always leave holes in the container to feed the fire oxygen,” Cara finished for her before turning to look at the weak sun once more. Pointless for her to know, seeing how she would never to be able to do just that.
“Just because you are unable to produce fire does not mean this is something useless for you to know,” Mary said, staring intently at Cara.
Cara glanced sideways at her friend, wondering if Mary could read minds. On more than one occasion she had been able to tell exactly where Cara’s thoughts were without Cara voicing them aloud.
“What if you were traveling to another village, you would need to take along fire in a jar in order for you to stay warm.”
“I can see the value in me having a jar full of fire, I freeze in the greenhouse, but what use is it to every other Arcian? They stay warm without the use of fire, or warm clothes for the matter. I’m the only one who can’t magically produce it, but I’m the one who needs it the most in order to survive this frozen hell.” Cara knew she sounded bitter. She chalked it up to being perpetually cold and lonely.
“It’s how we create lakes, make machines run, and in essence, keep our power running. A fire container is just the most basic of the concepts that go into those other things,” she admonished Cara.
Cara turned away, bitterness in her every move. She knew that, but her frustration with the assignment pushed the necessity of it for other Arcians aside.
Mary gave her a sad smile, patting her on the shoulder as she turned and walked to her workroom.
Cara shivered again, before continuing with watering. She felt bad for Mary, always having to deal with her bitterness and hate for the world in which she lived. It wasn’t her fault that Mary was a mind reader and could easily force Cara to confess her deepest thoughts and darkest moments. Which if Cara thought about it, occurred more frequently than she would have liked.
Cara watched Seth Robertson walk in through the main door of the greenhouse along with his father. Her heart froze instinctively as it always did when she saw him. He was the main reason she worked so hard learning to defend herself to the best of her abilities during her defense classes. One too many run-ins with him and his bully friends.
She struggled to maintain an icy glare, making sure to keep her guard up as well. Surely he wouldn’t try anything in the presence of adults. On top of bullying her physically, he always made a big show of talking slower and mimicking a blank look on his face, like Cara was sure she held through most of her classes. The only way she could tolerate the boring lectures given by so many of her teachers was to dream the day away. Unfortunately, this behavior also reaffirmed her teachers’ and peers’ perceptions of her.
Seth made it his personal mission to make her life even more miserable with his constant teasing and attempts to light her on fire every chance he got, among all the other things he had managed to do to her over the years. Cara shuddered involuntarily at the thought of some of the more horrible memories and fought to regain control of her mind again. Seth was dangerous and extremely mean. It was better for her if she stayed as far away as possible.
Cara glanced hatefully in Seth’s direction, noticing the way he stayed carefully behind his dad before turning to look at Cara. He slackened his jaw, which caused his mouth to hang open and crossed his eyes, giving him the look of someone not quite together. Cara gritted her teeth and turned away. She quickly finished her work, and then grabbing her coat to put over her jacket, she walked straight past Seth and his father into the bitter cold of the outside. Instantly, she regretted not finding something more to do while she was inside.
She hunched up her shoulders and stuck her gloved hands into her pockets. Even with jackets, coats, long underwear, double socks, hats, gloves, and mittens, Cara felt the icy wind rip right through her warm clothing, chilling her until the point she felt as icy as the world in which she lived.
She was thoroughly chilled by the time she made it to her own home just down the street. Banging the door open and blowing in with the wind, Cara furiously beat her arms on her chest while stomping hard on the floor in order to get her blood moving toward her extremities again.
She looked around the sitting room, hoping to see her father or one of her brothers. They would be willing to build a fire in her room. Her mother would tell her that she needed to work on letting her body adjust to the cold, which was really only cold to Cara.
Her mother seemed to think it was all in Cara’s head, no matter how many times she almost lost her fingers to the cold or the fact that she had to layer up with more clothing than anyone. Her father believed her though. He blamed her differences on the blue moon that had shown so brightly the night she had been born. Cara didn’t know what had caused her differences, she just knew there had to be something better in this life than what it currently held for her.